Thursday, October 21, 2010


I've been in Thailand for the past three weeks and I've another two weeks to go. I do miss, I shudder to say it, 'home' - i.e. Singapore.

Well, I miss clean air. I miss my apartment and my books and my new guitar (nearly bought another one here, a Taylor - still thinking about it) and my couch and my bed and my pillows and my computer (MUST buy a mouse for this laptop!) and my TV and my wine fridge and GOOD cheese and crackers and GOOD orange juice and my part-time flat-mates and cooking and beers with my buddies (the three days some of them came across for a bit of partying were great and dinner at Sirocco was truly amazing) and my pool and walking past my gym and the view from my office and kopi and kaya butter toast and fighting with and laughing with taxi-drivers and a wider choice of clothes and my desk and the chair at my desk and more of my books and conversations with people who speak English and having dinner with people who speak English (or Singlish even) and brunch at the Ritz (seriously, I missed one) and my funny lady friends and the lady who says hello each morning while she works out in the gym as I walk past again and the security guards who think I have about eight girl-friends (work colleagues and flat-mates like Izzy!) and cable TV with movie channels and having my chess books near me when I play on Gameknot and my porn stash and having a laundry and walking to Orchard Rd to buy more books (not that I am skipping my literary retail therapy here - will need another suitcase!) and nasi padang (but no rice!) for lunch and lunch with my colleagues and watching the cruise ships turn on a dime out my window at HarbourFront and not going to the casino out of spite and being able to choose from a wide range of beers and a wide range of foods and feeling safe at night and parks and trees (oops, they're going, going, g...) and not having diarrhoea.

What I am sick of are beggars wai-ing me as I walk past and beggars with drugged children on their laps and food stalls that block the footpaths and twisting my ankle on the footpaths and shop stalls that sell absolute rubbish as they block the footpaths and those that sell frightening knives, nun-chucks, shirokans, night-sticks, stun-guns and those that sell DVDs of child pornography (true! - there was a raid the other week) and the sex/drug touts on the every corner of the footpaths and motorcycles riding on the footpaths and being forced to walk on the road not the footpath and not having footpaths at all and cars that nearly hit me when I walk on the road and people asking me if I want to buy things or have a massage (oh, OK! just this once) and people asking if I want to go somewhere in their tuk-tuk or on the back of their motorcycle and t-shirts that say 'same-same' on the front and 'but different' on the back (they are all the same-same but the same-same) and only beer chang and hotel soap and hotel breakfasts (the breakfast here at the Landmark is excellent, even the marmalade but it's not breakfast my way) and eating out every night instead of watching TV while I eat MY food and calling people without racking up enormous charges (not that I pay of course, it's a work phone) and not getting to the breakfast in time to get a copy of the IHT and not getting the su-doku out in the IHT when I do get it and impossibly dense traffic-jams and a city that floods every time it rains (not just sometimes) and having to see exploited prostitutes on the street unless I consciously go to places where I expect to see exploited prostitutes on the street and exploited baby elephants (not seen any this time though) and people putting their heads in the mouths of exploited crocodiles and politics that doesn't make any sense (oops that's EVERYWHERE!) and soldiers in camouflage gear with loaded shotguns at the train stations and security guards who let everybody through even though everybody makes the metal detectors beep and being able to eat out in the open air and having diarrhoea.


The other thing I am missing is the ability to sit down and write fluently on this blog. This is more of a longer-term issue. As I walk around, as I mentioned previously, the interior monologue is charging ahead like Stephen Dedalus's, noting observations and spouting philosophy and making comments and jokes on all the little things, the quotidian, the minutiae of stuff that would bulk up a story. But I can't seem to put it into any form of narrative. It's just small items and lists. That's all I seem able to write when I write about this country (IF I write about this country). Not only for this blog but for anything more extended as well. (The novel I am supposed to be writing about Bruce that my buddies [all called Bruce] and I were joking about last weekend [and I have been promising since I started blogging in 1994] for example.)

For example -

The mixture of old corridors and new equipment in the hospital, how easily I get lost walking between the disparate hospital buildings (why don't they have just ONE big building - that's what I call a hospital), the statue of seated King Chulalongkorn that I use a landmark, the slight step I always falter on as I leave Asok sky-train station and head for the escalator down to the Sukhomvit MTR station, the fact that I am out of breath as walk up the steps to said sky-train, the lack of toilet paper, soap and towels in the hospital toilets (and they wonder why SARS and bird-flu and MRSA get around), the bad behaviour of people in queues yet their contradictory and simultaneous politeness, the way water squirts from under a lose paving stone onto my trousers, the fact that girl I buy two juices from everyday always goes to put straws in with them even though everyday I asked her not to, bar girls that hold a sign reading "27 pretty girls, 16 ugly ones and 2 really fat ones", the stickers on the taxis such as fake (I hope) bullet-holes and ones like this:...

OK stop making lists, says Mercer Machine. He hates lists. I seem to love them, even though I don't ever start with the intention to write lists. In fact I don't ever start out with anything. All I wanted to say tonight is that I am frustrated.

And I am. Frustrated. And, you may have noticed, just a tad homesick.


It doesn't help that work here is a shambles. I am not getting access to decent patients (those will really good diseases!) and we jump from department to department and always miss the days when the most interesting cases (did I say "good diseases" before? I meant to say "interesting cases") are scheduled. It doesn't help that the distributors here seem to be treating my stay as the opportunity for an extended demo, when it is fact for data collection only (new system, need marketing images). So, day after day, things screw up and I finish at midday, or I stay but I don't get one single usable image, or something like the right probe is missing and the entire day is cancelled or the doctor goes to a conference and all the cases are postponed till next week. I should give up go home to Singapore I guess, but each day they promise that tomorrow or the day after the cases will be more "interesting". Plus it is not my call.


Next Monday is a holiday in Bangkok. Maybe I should go home for the long weekend, but that would cost money and it is not my call. Maybe I should play golf, but it is rainy season and the flooding from the north is headed this way. The Chao Phraya river has already overflown into some of the fancy hotels I was told today. Maybe I should go to Phuket to go snorkeling but it is the wrong season, the western monsoon. Maybe I should buy that Taylor guitar (there is also a left-handed Ovation) and learn how to play "Yesterday" properly, finally after all these years. I can play "Norwegian Wood" pretty well, and John Fahey's version of "In Christ There Is No East Or West", but are they enough to make me feel like a real guitarist? No.

Did I tell you that I am frustrated and homesick?* And that I have diarrhoea?


(and couldn't be bothered fixing the rest of the typos in this post... up it goes.)


Anonymous said...

There is NO clean air here now. :(

Friggin' Indonesians!!

expat@large said...

Wow! That's the fastest comment EVER!

savannah said...

wow, and i thought the MITM got depressed about being in deepestdarkestafrica, sugar! you really need to go home. or maybe venting like this will have to do because as you said, it's really not your call. keep writing, i'll keep reading. xoxoxoxo

anthony said...

"I miss clean air" - does not exist...air quality is Singapore is listed as dangerous.

And I really didn't need to see the very last thing on your list post. :-)

Seeing you was great and Sirroco was fantastic. Side Note: Iggy's has been given Miele's number 1 spot for Restaurants in Asia, maybe we need another outing...

DanPloy said...

The fact you miss the sterility of Singapore surely says more about your life than it does say anything about Bangkok.

expat@large said...

Cheers all. Think I might take my new camera or and try to take some decent photos for once. Actually I shouldbe working on the training for the week after next.
.P.s. Internet is down in my room and all the TV channels are locking up like bad DVDs. sending this from the lobby on my mobile...

expat@large said...

wow, bad air in Singapore. Actually after the rain here it is crystal clear!

Michael McClung said...

I plead not guilty. I don't dislike lists, at least not the kind of lists you write :)

expat@large said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
expat@large said...

Sav: forgot to thank you for coming over (and for the FB message). Poor MITM. I feel for him. I'm stuck in deepest brightest Thailand - brilliant sunshine today but the floodwaters are coming down. One of the dams is at 112% capacity and at risk so they have to let a lot of water out... Will pop down to river on the Sky Train and check it out.

And work finished at midday again - no new cases. Sigh. Should send a report to Japan. We should have done this in Indonesia. The docs are more helpful and the patients have better, oops, more interesting diseases.

expat@large said...

MM: I distinctly remember you saying this over a beer or was it a game of chess. And you hate commas (not a fan of Henry James I guess) you said. Swear to god you said these things. I'll buy you a beer if I am wrong. In fact, what the heck, I'll buy you a beer anyway. So long as your are not infectious any more!

Skippy-san said...

Re: But I can't seem to put it into any form of narrative. It's just small items and lists. That's all I seem able to write when I write about this country (IF I write about this country). Not only for this blog but for anything more extended as well.

I know exactly how you feel. I walk around and think of cool ideas and then when I sit at the computer-I either can't get started, or the danm S.O. interupts me with something stupid.

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